Control Your Travel Insurance

There is no substitute for travel insurance. Canada’s health system won’t bail you out if you get sick or have an accident out of the country. You need private insurance: but you need to know what you’re buying. It’s a contract like any other, and if you don’t read it, blame yourself.

To keep out-of-country health insurance affordable, travel insurers limit what they will cover if you become ill or have an accident while you’re abroad: doesn’t matter if that’s Athens or Buffalo. Health costs are exorbitant no matter where you are, and your provincial health plans will likely cover less than 10 percent. Your insurer has to cover the rest, and that can be a lot.

Consequently there are exclusions, fine print, and eligibility rules. You need to know them. Travel insurance is a business, not a charity. It is not subsidized by government. Every claim that is paid to a foreign hospital or doctor comes out of premiums paid by other travellers. The greater the number of claims, the more expensive are the premiums. It’s a simple equation.

Does that mean you have to read every word of fine print in a 35 page insurance contract? No way you can do that. Your eyes would drop out. And too many travel insurers still have not learned how to make their contracts and explanatory literature user friendly. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to disregard the contracts and rely only on the promises given by the agent selling you the policy. You need to see the conditions of coverage for yourself.

What should you do before your buy an insurance plan?

Make sure you read the section called Exclusions and Limitations: that tells you what is NOT covered.

All plans will tell you upfront what is covered; that’s the easy part.

Also read the Eligibility rules and apply them to yourself, strictly. Don’t lie to yourself or conveniently “forget” that medication you have been taking for years, or that colonoscopy you had six months ago. If you’re even slightly unsure about a treatment you had or the reason you are taking a medication, ask your doctor and let your insurer know. Let the insurer make a determination and advise you if you wouldn’t be better served by another plan they have on their shelf. They’ll do that. They don’t want to lose your business.

And above all, don’t bend the truth to save yourself a few dollars in premiums. It could come back to haunt you later if you generate a claim and your insurer finds you missed disclosing something in your medical questionnaire. That’s a loser’s game. At that point it’s no use blaming the insurer for being hard hearted, or uncharitable, or lacking compassion. No use complaining about “small technicalities” or “small mistakes,” or words you didn’t understand in a medical application. Contracts are nothing but recitations of small technicalities. If you don’t know something, ask. You would do that if you were buying a maintenance warranty for a flat screen TV, wouldn’t you?

Every unjustified claim your insurer pays to a foreign hospital or doctor comes out of some other traveller’s pocket book: yours.

Canadians make more than 20 million trips out of the country each year. How many of them could do that if their out-of-country health insurance premiums were double the price they are today? Could you? And don’t look for governments to come to your aid. They’re having trouble enough finding money to pay the medical bills for people who stay at home and never travel.


Learn more about our services and products by visiting the Ingle International main page.

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